Modern Warfare 2's glaring plot holes exposed!

Buy the ticket, take the ride. Good advice, but after the credits roll what are we left with? Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is certainly a rollicking thrillcoaster, but the convoluted story has left many scratching their heads. The plot is like one of those magic eye puzzles – if you defocus a certain way, you trick yourself into seeing depth. In fact, the characters’ actions and motivations are utterly nonsensical, and trying to understand them will merely rob you of hours of enjoyment. So let’s try anyway!

Publicity stunt

The best place to start is with the “No Russian” mission, as it sets the rest of the plot in motion. We certainly applaud the attempt to explore storytelling methods that are unique to videogames. The scene presents its subject matter in a way no mere movie could. While butchering innocents in first person was an effective shock tactic, the terrorist mission and its repercussions are implausible as plot devices.

Above: Future Russia can’t afford facial recognition software 

As the mission opens, we’re treated to General Shepherd reciting a litany of Makarov’s excesses over a montage of shocking headlines. Makarov is an internationally known figure of menace, then, with a Russian military record. So when he confidently machineguns his way through the airport without even bothering to put on a mask, are we to believe that the Russian authorities weren’t able to identify him from security camera footage?

Above: If only there was a picture of the suspect! Oh, wait… 

CSI Russia

Instead, Russia blames a nobody CIA agent found dead at the scene who was killed by a point-blank pistol shot to the head. That doesn’t raise any red flags at all? The obvious conclusion is that the whole thing was an American plot, and that a full-scale invasion of the continental US is the appropriate response. The transition to the Takedown favela mission begets more confusion, such as: how did Shepherd tie the shell casings to Rojas? Meticulous analysis of the cutscene indicates that he actually re-created a 3D model of a shell casing from security camera footage, which was sufficiently hi-rez to make a match against a big bullet database. So the Russians, who had the actual shell casings to analyze, couldn’t figure that out? The security footage was crisp enough to recreate minute detail on a spent shell casing, but not of sufficient quality to identify Makarov’s face. Conclusion: Makarov’s face is smaller than a bullet.

Above: Hay guise, this bullet has favela on it! Let’s go!! 


When the warriors of 141 get to South America, they make short work of tracking down their man. Unfortunately, HQ won’t send a helicopter to extract them from the favela so Soap rings up his old pal Nikolai on a payphone. Luckily, the Russian informant just so happens to be tooling around Rio in a chopper and pops right over to pick them up. The mission itself, dashing weaponless across rooftops and frantically leaping to safety, was brilliant fun in the heat of the moment. But upon reflection, we must concede that nothing about the scenario makes a bit of sense. But look, it’s Nikolai!!

Next page: Things get even wackier!

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000
  • You What? - May 23, 2012 3:42 a.m.

    Er, this is Call of Duty. It's never claimed to be an exorcise in narrative genius or continuity. It's just a big dumb blockbuster with gripping set-pieces. It's pointless arguing about its plot holes. Heavy Rain or Mass Effect 3's ending? Totally justified. Modern Warfare 2? Waste of time.
  • You What? - May 23, 2012 3:43 a.m.

    *Obviously I meant 'exercise.' Though in truth, consistency IS exorcised in COD games.
  • viniciustlc - March 21, 2011 6:24 p.m.

    I'm from Brazil,and just for your information , we don't have tacos here! This is not Mexico!
  • TheWebSwinger - March 6, 2011 9:16 p.m.

    You could get the same results dissecting any game's storyline...they're just not as well planned out as movies, cuz you have to build gameplay around them
  • Imthedoctor - March 2, 2011 11:38 p.m.

    i always wondered how they were able to find the shell via survielaince and not able to see the russians doing the terrorist attack..idk, they didn't think it too well. That's mainstream gaming for you :/
  • Westenra - September 8, 2010 5:29 p.m.

    I don't buy it. None of those things are legitimate plot holes, not for a video-game at least. It's called suspension-of-disbelief, and every shooter in history has relied on it to some point; MW2 gets ragged on more because of it's success, nothing more, nothing less. You're not supposed to know the details of every action / counter-action in the game, that would defeat the purpose of the mystery and suspense. This all reads like a remnant of the Bad Company 2 anti-MW2 fanboism that went on during release out of rage for how much success the game received. I suggest taking a short-fiction writing course when you get to college, maybe then you'll be able to appreciation the subtlety of the MW2 story. Your blatant article-trolling is noted Games Radar, and ignored.
  • Athenacas - July 25, 2010 7:49 p.m.

    The Russian government did know that Makarov was responsible for the attack on the airport, but they thought that since a US soldier was found helping them, the CIA was working with Makarov. Thus, the president of Russia retaliated against the US thinking the United States government has some sort of plan to end the current Russian government and put Makarov, the supposed ally, in power. Most of the information on the other stuff is within the game. The above is from newspaper clippings found in cutscenes and in Makarov's safehouse. Shepherd and Makarov aren't friends. Shepherd uses Makarov as a scapegoat to depict himself as a hero having eliminated a major terrorist. There really aren't any plotholes within the story. The only thing that personally didn't make sense was how Shepherd got the Shadow Company.
  • gilgamesh310 - March 23, 2010 11:21 p.m.

    In all fairness some of the later seasons of 24 have more plotholes than this.
  • Micronauts - March 7, 2010 9:50 p.m.

    They also made an awkward setup in the 2nd mission. When you wake up as Pvt. Allen and Shepherd fires a few rounds from his revolver, acting like he's doing domework, he picks you up and says "Rangers lead the way", pushing you towards the battlefield. Once you go through that scene a second time, it makes him seem like a total tool from the start. If you look behind, he just then casually walks off (tool) and fiddles around with something in his hands ("Keep it clean!"). It almost looks like he is making a call.
  • jar-head - March 3, 2010 5:18 a.m.

    "Who were the dead HVI and soldier with the unusual tats? That whole subplot was dropped as quickly as it came up" It Was implied Makrov was "leaning house" and removing all ties to him, as did shephard later on, hence tyhe VIP who was killed must have been a major player if he ahda Freaking Panic Room in the suburbs
  • OnyxOblivion - January 18, 2010 4:54 p.m.

    So glad that ghost died. His mask looks so stupid.
  • Cwf2008 - January 16, 2010 8:56 a.m.

    @KillDrone: Well there is the fact that in space there is no atmosphere so there actually would be no shock wave
  • superrip - January 11, 2010 3:07 a.m.

    Also i had another thought. Didnt Allen being an American soldier wonder why Makerov was using American weapons and speaking English on his attack of the airport?
  • superrip - January 11, 2010 3:02 a.m.

    Well in IWs defense captain price was ordered by sheperd to nuke the usa in order to stop the russians, so theres a possibilitiy that he had some sort of intel for launching the nuke. After all its only a game. And killcrone, nukes are not easy to launch.
  • AndyGiff93 - January 8, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    Completely forgot this existed, I avoided it at first because I didn't want to ruin the game Glad I found it again cause it is so right, the plot really doesn't make any sense
  • DriftBus - December 28, 2009 5:23 a.m.

    I'm just wondering why no one has mentioned this; In the montage showing Mak-daddy (as I like to call him), it clearly states he sells his skills to the highest bidder, so Russia have no national connection with him. Just because he could have been identified on a security camera means nothing. Much like the real life Afghan government would report and search out bin Laden. Now, if an American is spotted in the group, this opens a whole other can of worms. The link could be made that America is supporting, or even paid for Mak-daddy. If they know he was CIA, even more of a smoking gun. Russia would also not think to check the bullets once an American is found, pretty clear cut case. Also, special forces would NOT stop an Ambulance fleeing. Just my plot hole hole covering. Other than that, I didn't remember the files linking Shepard and Mak-D, I figured he was just cleaning house after the CIA agent he placed with Mak was killed, starting the war, and not stopping the Airport massacre. Might need a replay. But nice article.
  • Geoffish - December 5, 2009 7:22 p.m.

    just wondering, do we actuly know that the russian ultra nationalists are communist? I mean, idk what ultranationalist means, it probablt means comunist, but if it dosent then they could be any regieme?
  • Onedown - November 29, 2009 10:42 p.m.

    What is the soaphawk thing?
  • SohaibArif - November 27, 2009 4:36 a.m.

    Gamesradar's immaturity and perhaps racism seeps through this entire article as this game unlike the anti-Arab and anti-Russian COD4 had an American villain and so you have to negate the story which is very much plaussible as much of it has already happen or been narrowly prevented. Regarding the airport scene, the Russians cameras did not recognize Makarov as he has already covertly entered,known terrorist or not,you are not allowed to enter an international airport with automatic or other weapons the camera operators would probably have been on Makarov's payroll or be part of his organization. The Russians did not scan the bullets as they had much bigger evidence pointing the attack to the US(do you really think India scanned every bullet fired in the Mumbai attack, they just saw Ajmal Kasab who may or may not have been Pakistani and pinned the whole thing on my country). The Americans scanned it because they knew they did not do it. Makarov did not have political support as he was a known arms dealer in MW1.Which brings us to a plot hole in MW1, why was the main villain Imran Zakhev.How could he be a Muslim and a Communist at the same time, considering Muslims had a huge role in destroying the USSR?
  • ensabahnur - November 26, 2009 2:34 a.m.

    This was hilarious, have to say i didnt think about some of these until now, especially soap and price at the end.